Smoke, screams fill theater during mass casualty drill

Posted at 5:09 PM, Oct 23, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-23 19:09:05-04

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah -- The injuries were fake, but the scene was all-too-real for hundreds of paramedics, police and firefighters at The District Megaplex in South Jordan Wednesday.

Hundreds of emergency responders were practicing a mass casualty drill, similar to the actual shooting in Aurora, Colorado. And boy did they make it look real.

This is the pretend scenario: A lone gunman walks into the theater and opens fire at everyone he comes across. He sets off a bomb and then kills himself. Seventy people have been shot or injured by the blast.

It is a scene filled with chaos; a dark theater with dozens of casualties. A man is in the aisle with his arm blown off. Teenagers and victims are screaming. A mom and her two little boys are bleeding and frightened.  The scenario is pretend, but this is just like the real thing.

“So, as those first responders come into the theater, they're experiencing darkness, movie playing, smoke from the detonated bomb, victims screaming for help,” said Nicole Martin, Mass Casualty Drill Spokesperson. “It's an intense experience, because we want those first responders to feel as if this is a real life situation.”

Police have secured the theater to make it safe for firefighters and paramedics to treat the patients.

“What the first responders are coming across, is mass casualties in a theater shooting and they're quickly having to assess what the injuries are and move those victims quickly to treatment,” Martin said.

Realistic is exactly what they accomplished.

“It is an intense experience; a tremendous amount of work has been done to try and make this situation as real as possible,” Martin said.

While it’s almost too real for comfort, this prepares responders for the real thing. And Chris Trevino of the West Jordan Fire Department said that's exactly how they treat it.

“Our guys show up, and right out of the chute, they see smoke, loud noises and people screaming,” he said. “For all intents and purposes, we’ll call it chaos.”

Seconds and minutes count. A triage team marks the most severely injured, and they are treated and transported.

“They get to see chaos and then they have to begin to organize that chaos, so that the patients that are involved in get the proper treatment and transport they need," Trevino said.

In addition to learning cooperation and coordination, emergency responders said they also learned how to do their job faster and more efficiently, so that they can save more lives.